Jordan Marsh, Boston, MA
I first saw the Jordan Marsh layout photo in the August 1992 issue of Classic Toy Trains Magazine as part of an article on Frank Castiglione and the American Flyer display layouts. The image is credited to the UPI/Bettman Archive. You can see the photo by clicking on the link below, which will take you to that image on Corbus/Bettman webpage, but continue reading below.
This photo, taken in December 1951, depicts a layout that is typical of the custom Gilbert displays of that era, such as the Sibley, Boys' Railroad Club (studio layout), or FAO Schwarz layouts. From my review of the photo, the layout appears to be most similar to the FAO Schwarz 1949 layout. The tunnel exit tracks at the lower part of the photo all seem to come out at the same elevation, with the center track beginning its grade only after exiting the tunnel. On the Sibley and Boys' Railroad Club layouts, the center track is already into its grade when it exits the tunnel. Another similarity to the FAO Schwarz 1949 layout is the girder bridge placed on flat ground on one of the 2 spurs at the lower left of the photo, serving no apparent purpose. The layout in the photo, like the FAO Schwarz layout, also appears to have girder bridges in place for an upper level oval of HO, but unlike the FAO Schwarz layout there is no HO track in place. Instead the area is used to display buildings and accessories, even the incongruously placed stockyard. The absence of HO would be expected in 1951, as Gilbert was no longer selling HO trains at that time. Perhaps this was not the first year this layout was used and HO was included on earlier versions of this layout in 1949 or 1950.
After much time spent comparing this layout and the 3 layouts noted above, I am beginning to believe that all of these displays are variations of one basic layout. They all seem to be about the same size and follow very similar track plans. All include a harbor scene next to the talking station and 3 loops of track, one of which is an over under figure 8. On the Sibley and Boy's Railroad Club layouts, the parallel curve end of the layout with the Talking Station appears to be the most developed. On the Jordan Marsh and the FAO Schwarz layouts, the tunnel exit area at the opposite end is more developed. Take a look and see what you think. Feel free to let me know if you have other ideas about these layouts.
Dale Smith - email@example.com